By Vicky Green 

During our last set of Lightning Talks , our colleague Nic Webb opened up a new world of possibilities by introducing how ‘Minecraft’ could be used to plan buildings and communities. We looked at the work by Ordnance Survey and OS Open Data and explored some fantastic maps created in New York City.  These inspired us to set ourselves a challenge to fire up Minecraft and have a go.

So we did… and four of us looked at it for a few minutes, each taking the controller to try and make sense of it all.  It was then we realised we actually need experts! Someone, who could create worlds with skills and speed!

Taking advantage of the Christmas School holidays, I enticed my 12 year old son and his mate to come into the Lab with talk of google glass, drones and unlimited play on Xbox! It was an easy sell…

The two boys soon set to work, they decided to build our Lab in Minecraft before beginning a more detailed project recreating Exchange Court - our central office.  They began by photographing the building, finding floor plans and created focal point of the building within an hour!

To get an aerial view of the building our experts flew the Lab drone over Bromford....

To get an aerial view of the building our experts flew the Lab drone over Bromford....

At work in the Lab Lounge....

At work in the Lab Lounge....

Their speed was ridiculous and huge attention was paid to the internal and external detail of the physical building.  These guys work fast and collaboratively.  One does the mining, the other builds – they work seamlessly together and know exactly what they are doing! After all, this is play to them!

We asked the lads what they thought about what we had asked him to do. They told us that they really liked that they had a real building to work on.  It made it more interesting and felt like a challenge. 

Rather than being cooped up in their bedroom, they were developing in the open.  Colleagues of Bromford stopped and admired their work, which did wonders for their confidence.  What they have managed to achieve in 2 days is fantastic – we know that no adult in our building would have been able to create this.

Taking shape: Exchange Court rebuilt 

Taking shape: Exchange Court rebuilt 

So what did we learn from this experiment?

1)     Minecraft not only is a great platform to build on, but it is a place that encourages collaborative work.  It encourages  the gamer to use logic, creativity and use real space awareness. What does this mean for the future of work? 

2)     Bring in the experts – now we realise that we can’t just recruit an army of 12 year olds, but you can learn from them. 

3)     Develop in the open – unlock the potential of the bedroom gamers, let others see their work to build their confidence.

Our next challenge is to test this in a community. We've identified an Older Persons community that is currently not making full use of the facilities and building. What would happen if we engage younger people to work with residents to map their existing community and rebuild it in Minecraft?

Will the collaborative nature of the experience spill over into the offline world?

People have to watch each others backs in Minecraft and support each other. Exactly the behaviours we want to unlock in our communities.

Follow this link to view the work of OS Open Data 

UPDATE 29/01/2015

Since the original post James (Vicky's boy) has created a video walk-through of the Bromford minecraft building which Nic shared at the last lightning (or lightening) talks. Thought you guys wouldn't mind a peek either. 

Alternatively, you can follow THIS LINK to view the lightning talk in full. 

Peace! Tom

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